Copyright: Copyright Infringement
Copyright infringement (often referred to as piracy) is the use of works protected by copyright law without permission where permission is required. Such use infringes on the rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, distribute, display or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works. Copyright infringement is a bit like plagiarism: in that you take other people's work and use it as your own. However, copyright infringement is a lot more complex. Legal proceedings can be tricky - for both plaintiff and defendant. Courts must decide:
- The nature of the infringement
- The extent of the infringement
- the effect of the infringement on the value of the work
Examples of copyright infringement
Anytime that you are copying or using someone else’s original work without their permission, you are infringing their copyright
All examples below will use the singer, songwriter and actor David Bowie.
- You convert your favourite David Bowie CD to mp3 and upload it to a file sharing site
- On the same file sharing site, you download other David Bowie albums, which other people have uploaded without permission, for your own personal use
- You make a video using a David Bowie song as background music which you then upload to YouTube or another video sharing platform
- You find a really cool image of David Bowie on a website, the terms and conditions of which prevent using the image elsewhere. Despite this, you download the image and use it on your poster, brochure or your website (the David Bowie image above can be freely reused but reuse of this image is forbidden)
- You make copies of a DVD of The Man Who Fell to Earth (a film starring David Bowie) and sell them on your website
- You scan a biography of David Bowie and upload it to Moodle so that your class can access it.
- You download a scholarly article about David Bowie from a website that does not have permission to share scholarly articles (and upload it to Moodle, too)
How to Avoid Copyright Infringement
The web is a fantastic resource for finding and sharing useful material. At the same time, the web makes it fantastically easy to infringe on copyright - accidentally or deliberately. If you're planning on deliberate infringement, please reconsider; you could get into trouble, trouble that could seriously affect your finances, your time and your peace of mind. Also, be aware that files downloaded from file sharing sites often contain malware. Here are some tips for avoiding accidental copyright infringement:
- Don't assume that because something is available on the web then it is free to be used. Just because it is there does not mean to say it is not under copyright. The web is full of copyright infringement!
- Don't believe what you hear: don't listen to people who tell you that you can do this or that regarding other people's work. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
- Familiarise yourself with the principles of copyright exceptions, especially fair use. But when in doubt...
- ...Always err on the side of caution: assume that that everything you look at is copyrighted and work backwards from there, and that if there are no permissions explicitly granted, then you can't use that material
- Look for licencing details or permissions before you use anything that isn’t yours. If you want to use something from a website, then does the website have a terms and conditions page? Look there for permissions and licencing details
- Try to use materials that are licenced for reuse, in the public domain or are out of copyright - there are many online sources for free-to-use materials, see the links page for details.
Image: David Bowie performing in Washington DC in 1974 on the Young Americans tour, Photo taken by Hunter Desportes and licenced under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence